Capitol Updates

Friday, April 19, 2024 
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  • ACTION ALERT: Rally This Saturday to Support Our Public Schools 
  • Legislative Session Sine Die 2024 Report
  • Review of Education Related Priority Bills 

Fight Against Costly Voucher Schemes Will Continue
Oppose Giving Public Tax Dollars to Private Schools

Rally to Support Nebraska Public Schools
Saturday, April 20, 9 a.m.
Nebraska State Capitol North Steps

Nebraska public school supporters are encouraged to join teachers and other public education advocates this Saturday, April 20, at the State Capitol for a rally to support public schools and oppose legislation giving public tax dollars to private schools.

On Thursday, lawmakers passed LB1402, a voucher scheme proposed by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan that she admitted is an “end-run” around the successful petition drive that let voters decide whether they support using public funds to pay for private schools. Public school advocates plan to challenge the legislation, which imposes a costly private school voucher scheme on taxpayers and denies Nebraskans the right to vote on the issue.

Passage of this new voucher scheme is a slap in the face to voters. More than 117,000 Nebraskans signed the successful referendum petition to have voters decide the issue on the November ballot. We will continue the fight to ensure voters’ wishes on this issue are heard and respected. That could include launching another petition effort as well as challenging the constitutionality of this bill. Instead of sending public dollars to private schools, which are under no obligation to serve all children, state funds should be used to support the public schools that 9 out of 10 Nebraska students attend.

LB1402 would provide a direct appropriation of public dollars to fund private schools. While the initial cost to Nebraska taxpayers is $10 million, in other states with similar voucher schemes the costs to taxpayers have grown exponentially and public schools have suffered severe funding and program cuts as a result. Instead of sending public dollars to private schools, which are under no obligation to serve all children, state funds should be used to support the public schools that 9 out of 10 Nebraska students attend.

Action on the final day of the 2024 legislation session means that for the first time in history, Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill to deny citizens their right to vote on an issue that was put on the ballot through a successful referendum petition by the people. This new private school voucher program will harm students, families, and public schools by diverting would-be public education funding to private and religious schools that can discriminate against kids and that are not held accountable to taxpayers.

Legislative Session Sine Die 2024 Report

The Nebraska Legislature concluded its 60-day session on Thursday, April 18, marking the end of an eventful period characterized by significant debate and decision-making. The final day was particularly contentious, as the legislature dealt with several key pieces of legislation. The governor's property tax proposal, LB388, was set aside, while the school choice voucher bill, LB1402, was successfully passed. Various other bills were sent to the governor for either his signature or potential veto, adding to the day's intensity.

Term-limited senators and those not seeking re-election delivered their farewell addresses to their colleagues. Fifteen state senators will not be returning in 2025, marking a significant change in the legislative body. The departing senators include Julie Slama, Carol Blood, Mike McDonnell, Tony Vargas, Justin Wayne, Lynne Walz, Joni Albrecht, Bruce Bostelman, Anna Wishart, Steve Halloran, John Lowe, Lou Ann Linehan, Frederic Meyer, Tom Brewer, and Steve Erdman. Most of these senators are leaving due to term limits, except for Julie Slama and Frederic Meyer, who chose not to file for re-election this year. Their departures signal a shift in the legislature's composition as new members will join in the next session.

During this session, senators introduced 597 new bills and 11 proposed constitutional amendments, many of which addressed crucial issues related to education and school finance. More than 370 bills were sent to the governor for his approval. The NSEA Government Relations team kept close tabs on over 250 different legislative proposals pertinent to these topics, navigating the complex web of hearings and floor debate. As the session concludes, the outcomes of these legislative efforts will shape the future of education and school finance in Nebraska. The following list are some of the major education and school finance bills covered during the 2024 session:

State Aid to Education and the State Budget

The legislature advanced and the governor approved the mid-biennium budget bill LB1412. The adopted budget calls for a spending increase of 3.1%, which is slightly higher than the 2% increase called for by the governor. The adjustments include an unexpected increase in state aid to K-12 schools. The Appropriations Committee’s budget proposed a modest spending increase while leaving a significant surplus in the state's reserve funds. The unexpected increase in state aid to K-12 schools is due to higher actual spending reported by districts like Omaha Public Schools, which had to replace federal pandemic funds that are no longer available. In FY2024-25, $65.3 million is attributed to an increase in state aid to schools (TEEOSA), and $27.5 million is an increase in special education funding pursuant to the estimated 80% of total reimbursable costs for school districts as required by LB243 (2023). Total TEEOSA funding will be $1.028 billion in FY2023-24, and $1.01 billion in FY2024-25, which is down overall due to higher local valuations.

Private School Voucher Program

LB1402 adopted - Requires the State Treasurer to establish a program to replace the Opportunity Scholarships Act with a new plan to use public funds to pay for private and religious schools with a direct appropriation of $10 million for FY2024-25, and every year thereafter, from the General Fund. Up to 7.5% of the funds ($750,000) may be used for administrative expenses. LB1402 repeals LB753 (2023), denying voters their right to vote on whether they support using public funds to pay for private schools.

Educator Recruitment and Retention Omnibus Legislation

LB1284 adopted - Provide for and change teacher incentive programs, provide for a pilot program to distribute menstrual products in schools, a Dyslexia Research Grant Program, a professional learning system relating to instruction in reading, and a statewide computer science education expansion program, create and change authorized use of certain funds, and change provisions relating to school psychologists and certain scholarship programs. The bill includes the following:

Special Educators of Tomorrow Act provides eligibility for scholarships or loans to individuals with at least two years of direct support professional experience, enrolled or planning to enroll in an eligible institution for special education teaching. From the 2024-25 to the 2029-30 school years, eligible students can annually apply for scholarships of up to $2,500 & loans not exceeding $4,000 per year, with specific conditions for repayment outlined in a contract.

Special Education Teacher Forgivable Loan Program Act will assist individuals studying to become special education teachers by supporting forgivable loans to those individuals who commit to teaching in Nebraska following their certification as a teacher with a special education endorsement.

The Teach in Nebraska Today Program was established, aiming to attract individuals to the teaching profession through student loan repayment assistance or grants for classroom service. Prior to the act's effective date, the program offers student loan repayment assistance capped at $5,000 annually to eligible Nebraska residents currently teaching full-time. After the effective date, grants up to $5,000 per year for up to five years are available to Nebraska residents teaching full-time for five years or less with an income below $55,000.

The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act is amended to require NDE to develop & implement a professional learning system to help provide sustained professional learning & training in high quality instruction in reading for teachers who instruct students in kindergarten through third grade at an approved or accredited school & teachers employed by an early childhood education program approved by the State Board of Education.

The Attracting Excellence to Teaching Program is amended to clarify student-teaching semesters & to allow an eligible student who is enrolling for a student-teaching semester to apply for an additional loan of up to $3,000 for the student-teaching semester & receive up to a total of $6,000 for the year.

Education System Omnibus Legislation

LB1329 adopted - Change provisions relating to handguns and firearms in school environments, classification of school districts, excessive absenteeism and truancy, the enrollment option program, certain educational certificates, permits, and endorsements, certain tax levy and bonding authority of school districts, requirements for various school and education programs, and the Nebraska Career Scholarship Act, provide for grants relating to school mapping data, prohibit certain debt collection activities, and provide requirements for the use of certain maps for schools. The bill includes the following:

Creates the School Emergency Response Mapping Fund, which will be used to fund the school data mapping projects. Provides flexibility for local school boards in determining reasonable amounts of time for certain mandated training. Change requirements related to student attendance & require plans for excessive absences.

Permits a school board to authorize the carrying of firearms by authorized security personnel in smaller communities. The State Board of Education shall develop a policy in consultation with the Nebraska State Patrol. The policy will relate to the authorization of the carrying of firearms by appropriate personnel.

Reclassify Class I, Il, and Ill school districts. Class I would be any district with fewer than one thousand five hundred inhabitants. Class Il would be any district between one thousand five hundred and five thousand inhabitants. Class Ill would be any district between five thousand and two hundred thousand inhabitants.

Changes provisions related to the issuance of and the eligibility for certificates and permits issued by NDE. Permits an individual with a certificate or permit to complete an approved program of equivalent professional education in a designated endorsement area provided by an accredited public school.

Changes provisions relating to certain tax levy and bonding authority of school districts. Currently, school boards in any school district can decide to impose an additional property tax levy for specific abatement projects that address environmental hazards, accessibility barriers, life safety code hazards, or mold within existing school buildings or their grounds.

Introduces a policy for mapping data in schools to enhance emergency response efficiency. School boards or governing authorities of approved schools may adopt a policy to provide mapping data (defined as information related to a school building) to local, county, or state public safety agencies.

Prohibits the use of Mercator projection maps in public schools and requires each to use Gallpeters or Authagraph projection maps. Schools may continue to use existing maps in their inventory. Each school district's board is responsible for adopting a policy relating to projection maps.

Prohibits school districts from taking certain actions relating to outstanding debts on a school lunch or breakfast account.

Makes changes to the current open enrollment policy: (1) allowed students to transfer schools at any time during the school yar and as many times as they need; and (2) Ensured that parents are no longer charged for sending their child to a public school either in or outside of their residing district.

Parental Involvement and Transparency Legislation

LB71 adopted - Change provisions relating to early childhood education, parental involvement in and access to learning materials in schools, and the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act and provide a process for repeating a grade upon request. The bill includes the following:

Allows children to remain in public pre-school until the mandatory kindergarten entrance age. As a result, eligible five- & six-year-olds would be able to access public pre-k schooling.

Would include educational decision maker as a parent or guardian. Juvenile courts can appoint guardian ad litem or other adult relatives as educational decision makers in juvenile cases. Provides a process through the NDE for a parent or guardian to request that their child be able to repeat a grade.

Return to Parttime or Substitute Work following Fulltime Employment

LB198 adopted - Change provisions relating to participation in and implementation of public retirement provisions. Clarify the definition of “termination” in the NPERS School Plan and the OSERS plan to allow more frequent substitute teaching if the employee does not take a distribution from the retirement plan.

Changes to Accreditation and Approval Requirements

LB1027 adopted - Change provisions relating to schools which elect not to meet accreditation and approval requirements. Requires home schooled families to continue to annually file for home school status for their students. Would include educational decision maker as a parent or guardian. Juvenile courts can appoint guardian ad litem or other adult relatives as educational decision makers in juvenile cases.

Changes to Compulsory Attendance

LB1029 adopted - Change provisions relating to compulsory school attendance regarding illness. clarifies the definition of illness to include "mental and physical" illness as accepted excused school absences.

Eliminate the Professional Practices Commission and Change Fees

LB1306 adopted - Eliminate the Professional Practices Commission and provide, change, and eliminate provisions relating to standards for and conduct of teachers and administrators. The PPC will be eliminated & the State Treasurer will transfer any remaining money within the Professional Practices Commission Fund to the Certification Fund.

The maximum fee that can be collected for each teaching certificate or permit issued by the Commissioner & is valid for all Nebraska schools will be lowered from $75 to $65. NDE will now handle rules & regulations for the standards of ethics & competency for Nebraska public school educators, promoting understanding of the adherence to the standards, & providing an orderly method of resolving disputes arising over alleged failure of an educator to adhere to the standards.

K-12 Educator Defense to Obscenity Remains in State Law

LB441 failed to advance - Change provisions relating to obscenity. Repeals the exemption from prosecution for those in educational institutions providing obscenity to minors in grades K-12.

Bill Targeting Teacher Association Fails to Advance

LB1091 failed to advance - Provide requirements and restrictions for school boards relating to professional employees’ organizations. Would require a school board or board of education that grants access by a professional employees' organization to a school employee's physical or electronic mailbox or a meeting to also grant that same access to any other organization that requests access; & to prohibit a school board or board of education from designating any day or break in the school calendar using the name of any professional employees' organization.

Vote in Nebraska's Primary Election on May 14, 2024

Passing beneficial education and school financing laws – and stopping bad ones – starts at the ballot box by electing state senators and a governor who support public education! Here are a few helpful links as you prepare for Nebraska’s Primary Election.

Register to vote or change information / party registration: Voter Registration  
To vote at your polling place on election day May 14, 2024, the completed application must be submitted by April 18, 2024.

Request an Early Voting/Vote by Mail ballot: Vote-by-Mail Ballot Request 
You can submit your completed early voting application by U.S. Mail, by fax or you can scan/take a picture of your application and email it to your county election office. Applications for a Primary Election ballot must be received by 6 p.m., April 25, 2024.

NSEA Recommended Candidate information will be in The Voice, May issue.
More information on Vote by Mail/Early Voting:
Early/Vote-by-Mail Information 

Review of Education Related Priority Bills

Approved by Governor


LB43 (Sanders) Adopt First Freedom Act and the Personal Privacy Protection Act
NSEA Position: Support

LB71 (Sanders) Changes to parental involvement / access to learning materials in schools
NSEA Position: Support

LB198 (McDonnell) Change NPERS provisions relating to returning to work after termination
NSEA Position: Support

LB287 (Brewer) Changes to petitions, conflicts of interest, voter registration and voting
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB1027 (Clements) Changes to schools not meeting accreditation / approval requirements
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB1092 (Murman) Adopt the Online Age Verification Liability Act
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB1284 (Walz) Provide for a statewide computer science education expansion program
NSEA Position: Support

LB1306 (Education) Eliminate the Professional Practices Commission
NSEA Position: Support

LB1329 (Murman) Change provisions Career Scholarship Act
NSEA Position: Support (Oppose section w/ LB1339)

LB1412 (Arch) Mainline Budget - Provide appropriations for operation of government
NSEA Position: Support

Presented to Governor


LB25 (Wayne) Authorize punitive damages as prescribed and provide for distribution
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB937 (Bostar) Adopt the Caregiver Tax Credit Act
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB1023 (von Gillern) Provide income tax deductions for certain research expenditures
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB1317 (Linehan) State findings relating to property taxes
NSEA Position: Monitor

LB1402 (Linehan) Appropriate funds for grants to private scholarship-granting organizations
NSEA Position: Oppose

Final Reading

LB388 (Linehan) Change provisions relating to sales taxes
NSEA Position: Monitor (failed to advance)

Select File


LB1331 (Murman) Changes to truancy / attendance and programs administered by NDE
NSEA Position: Monitor (failed to advance)

General File


LB441 (Albrecht) Change provisions relating to obscenity
NSEA Position: Oppose (failed to advance)

LB575 (Kauth) Adopt the Sports and Spaces Act
NSEA Position: Oppose (failed to advance)